Essay No.1 a in a series of essays on Community For more info contact: [email protected]
Muslim Community: a unifying theme of the Quran
Feb 2006 By Ahmad Ibrahim
THE QURAN presents a holistic[i] view of all the aspects of human reality, which emphasizes the importance of our nature and the interdependence of its different parts.
THE QURAN denies nothing about actual human behavior and experience. It tells us, through stories, metaphors and parables, about many facts which we already know, but often fail to appreciate because of our preoccupations. It reminds us that our life on the face of earth is brief[ii], fragile and only because nature, in its benevolence, has subjected its forces to our benefit[iii], without which life on the face of this planet is incomprehensible.
The Quran tells us about our creation, our identities[iv] and also about our shortcomings as part of this reality. It tells us that humans are hasty[v], impatient[vi], easily deceived by the beautiful things of this life[vii], often ungrateful[viii] to their creator and that the human self is inclined to evil[ix].
Ennoblement of humankind
But the Quran also tells us how the human condition can be improved by overcoming these shortcomings. It tells us that God sent messengers with scriptures for this purpose. Quran uses the metaphor ‘to lead humankind out of darkness into light’[x] for this process of improvement.
This metaphorical darkness is that aspect of human behavior which is harmful to humankind. It is the inability to think beyond the life of this world, refusal to accept the benevolence and mercy of the creator, rejection of the power of the creator to resurrect and as a result, refusal to surrender before the creator and instead surrender before one’s own vain desires. As a whole this darkness dehumanizes us[xi] because of the denial of the relationship between us and the creator[xii]. (please read about qualities God loves and does not love)
The opposite of this darkness is the light which ennobles the humankind by improving their behavior. Quran emphasizes that those who are in light are not equal to those who are in darkness[xiii]. Those who improve their condition will be rewarded and darkness and disgrace will never touch them [xiv]. The Quran says that God does not change condition of people unless they change their own state of goodness[xv].
Community the driver for change
Improvement in the human behavior is neither self acting nor a function of time. It is also not inevitable. This improvement would be impossible without human cooperation and organization; since cooperation is basic to human nature and organization of groups is basic to cooperation.
Humans always form groups to solve their problems. These social groups give identity and support to their members and bring many insights that would be more difficult to stimulate by an individual.
The improvement, which we discussed in the previous sections, happens when people, who believe in what God has sent towards them, cooperate and organize and strive to change their values and condition. This is what the Quran calls; struggle against evil[xvi] and collectively the people who drive this change are what the Quran calls, the community of believers or the Muslim Community
Quran emphasizes that this community is the spirit behind the process of improvement and maintaining the state of goodness[xvii]. The importance of this perspective in Quran demands that Muslim Community must be given central importance in studying the Quran. In other words, we consider the Muslim Community as a major unifying theme of the Quran and relate other subjects to this theme. In the next section we discuss how this thematic approach helps us understand the message of the Quran.
Thematic Approach in study of the Quran
The Quran bears a remarkable degree of thematic unity. This reflects the fundamental principle of ‘Tawheed’ or doctrine of unity in the Quran. The Quran also points to this by saying that there is no inconsistency in the book; this being a sign of divine revelation. The Quran says,
Do you not then consider the Quran carefully? Had it been from other than God, they would surely have found therein much contradictions [4:82].
The use of thematic approach helps us to comprehend the Quran’s message by avoiding pitfalls and misuse of phrases by picking them out of context. (please reads tips on studying the Quran)
This approach organizes subject matter around major or unifying themes, thus, building them into a whole and enabling the readers to make important connections between them. A thematic approach more closely approximates the human experience of how things happen than looking at information in isolation.
A thematic approach offers many advantages.
It allows for a broad treatment of the subjects.
It provides the focus for understanding by giving a purpose and meaning.
It creates a need to inquire, to do purposeful research, to communicate, and to solve problems.
It provides a stimulating approach to see knowledge and concepts in larger contexts.
Therefore, we have taken a thematic, rather than chronological approach - which examines the sequence of events approach to the study of the Quran.
Some arguments favoring Community as a major unifying theme
Professor Fazlur Rahman, writes in his book "Major themes of the Quran":
The bond of the community is strewn over all the pages of the Quran, especially in the Madinan sura. All Muslims are declared to be "brothers" (49: 10). They are together as impregnable "as a building reinforced with lead" (61:4). They give priority to needy Muslims over themselves even if they themselves are in need, and "whosoever is saved from the pettiness of his own self, they are the successful ones" (59:9).
Some other arguments:
All the Prophets were founders of communities[xviii]. They invited the people of their era to join their community and to help improve their own conditions. They were often rejected but they demonstrated resilience and determination in leading their communities.
Quran promotes a strong sense of Community by stating that God united the hearts of believers and this could not be achieved even by spending all the wealth of the earth[xix].
In Quran, God has directly addresses the community numerous times [xx], including the following:
O you who believe!
Seek help in patience and prayers [2:153]
Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you [2:183]
Be afraid of God and give up what remains from usury, if you are believers [2:278]
When you contract a debt for fixed period, write it down. [2:282]
You are forbidden to inherit women against there will and you should not treat them with harshness [4:19]
Remember God with much remembrance.
Notes and Reference --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[i] A theory that the universe and especially living nature is correctly seen in terms of interacting wholes (as of living organisms) that are more than the mere sum of elementary particles .
[ii] 18:45 And put forward to them the example of the life of this world, it is like the water (rain) which We send down from the sky, and the vegetation of the earth mingles with it, and becomes fresh and green. But later it becomes dry and broken pieces, which the winds scatter. And God is able to do everything.
[iii] 78:6 - 16
[iv] 9:13 ‘O humankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another….”
[x] 14:1 , 14:5, 57:9, 65:11
[xi] 25:44 ‘Or do you think most of them hear or understand? They are only like cattle; nay, they are even farther astray from the path’. 7:179 … They have hearts wherewith they understand not, they have eyes wherewith they see not, and they have ears wherewith they hear not. They are like cattle, nay even more astray; those! They are the heedless one.
[xiii] 6:122, 13:16
[xvii] 7:181 ‘and those whom we have created, there is a community who guides with the truth, and establishes justice therewith’. [3:103-114] ‘And hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of God, and be not divided among yourself……..Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting all that is good, enjoining good things and forbidding bad things……you are the best community raised from the humankind, you enjoin good things and you stop from the bad things….”
[xviii] 11:48 “It was said: “O Noah! Come down with peace from Us and blessings on you and on the people who are with you…..”
10:98 was there any town that believed and its faith saved it? – except the people of Yunus (PBUH); …”
61:14 O you who believe! Be you like helpers of God as said Jesus (PBUH) son of Mary (PBUH) to the disciples: “who are my helpers in the cause of God” Disciples said “We are God’s helpers”. Then a group of Children of Israel believed and a group disbelieved…”
11:58 and when our commandment came, we saved Hud and those who believed with him by a Mercy from Us, and we saved them from a severe torment.
[xx] We counted 88 times by using phonetic search engines